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CD Review

Franz Liszt

Works for Organ, Volume 1

  • Prélude and Fugue on BACH
  • Evocation à la Chapelle Sixtine
  • 3 Consolations
  • Legend of St. Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds
  • Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Sagen
Andreas Rothkopf, organ
Naxos 8.554544
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This CD contains of mixture of pieces originally written for organ and later transcribed for piano, and works originally written for piano and subsequently transcribed for organ. The "Bach" Prélude and Fugue and Weinen, Kagen, Sorgen, Sagen are the two big works that Liszt conceived for organ here, and while the piano versions he fashioned are effective, it is the originals here that are the most compelling, allowing their orchestral leanings to pour forth in sustaining and grandiose sonorities.

The epic natures of these two works register well under the fingers of Andreas Rothkopf, who captures their brooding and religious moods, their intimate raptures and muscular glories. While these two works are clearly the most important (and longest) in the collection, they cannot distract one from looking to the familiar Consolations (in D Flat Major and two in E Major), St. Francis preaching to the birds and the Evocation à la Chapelle Sixtine, which are all fascinating in their organ guises. The D Flat Major Consolation comes across with the same feeling of intimacy, but lacks the range and color that the non-sustaining tones of the piano can readily provide. The other Consolations and the Evocation fare well, but are better in their original versions as well.

St. Francis preaching to the birds may be the least effective transformation from piano to organ. The bird chirping sonorities, for example, register as ethereal and mysterious, not as the gossamer sounds of creatures enchanted by the gentle saint. But Rothkopf makes the best case for this and the other "piano" pieces, playing up their singing qualities with a deft interpretive sense not to imitate the originals. Part of the excellence of this issue is due to the organ he used for these recordings, the Sauer Organ, St. Peter Cathedral, Bremen. Its majestic tones do full justice to the music here, and Naxos provides fine sound in an acoustical environment not always favorable to clarity.

Copyright © 2001, Robert Cummings